DOW officials gather in Craig for annual conference
March 25, 2010
There are 15,000 acres, or 24 square miles, of State Wildlife Area in Moffat County, numbers that are bigger than some small countries.
It's Tyler Jacox's responsibility to take care of that land and make it suitable for wildlife and sportsmen.
Jacox is a property technician for the Colorado Division of Wildlife, who was joined by about 40 others with the same title this week in Craig.
DOW officials gathered at the Holiday Inn of Craig for an annual conference to learn about new ways to manage and preserve the more than 500,000 acres across Colorado designated as state wildlife areas.
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"Our main goal is to benefit the wildlife, from deer and elk to the little guys, too," Jacox said. "But, we want to make sportsmen enjoy it as well.
"Every day is different and every property is different. It's fixing fences, spraying weeds, irrigating and a lot of ag-type work."
The statewide conference, the location of which rotates each year, is designed as a networking and professional development opportunity for property technicians.
From welding to weed management, property technicians need to hone many skills to keep wildlife areas optimal for local wildlife to use for food, shelter and reproductive needs.
During the conference, the 40 property technicians had the chance to share ideas on wildlife management and learn new skills to bring back to the properties they manage.
Doug Gillham, a DOW property technician from Hot Sulfur Springs, stood out in the Holiday Inn parking lot Wednesday, squinting from under his cowboy hat at a demonstration on tractor maintenance.
"We wear a lot of hats," Gillham said of the diverse demands of his job. "From maintenance and mechanics to managing grazing areas. A lot of these guys have ag experience."
Gillham, who has been a DOW employee for 12 years, said the ranching backgrounds that many property technicians have helps with fencing issues and irrigation management.
But, many come across other demands, like welding parts for their DOW-issued trucks or getting a commercial driver's license to haul heavy machinery from property to property.
Throughout the two-day conference, the group sat through lectures and training sessions including a trip to the Moffat County High School agriculture and metal working shop. MCHS teachers John Haddan and Rick Murr, along with a few students, helped DOW workers by offering training and tips on TIG welding Tuesday.
Gillham said the conference was a significant benefit to the property technicians for the simple reason of having a group of them in one place.
For the most part, the property technicians are on their own to manage state wildlife areas.
"They pretty much turn us loose and trust us to make the right choices," Gillham said. "Just getting together and sharing ideas about what kinds of things work and what doesn't is important. If someone is using some sort of management technique on their property that's working, they can just say it across the table."
While it can be lonely work at times, the property technicians often share the company of herds of elk and deer, as well as get the satisfaction of knowing they are making state wildlife areas better for both animals and human beings.
"If we benefit the wildlife, then the sportsmen will do a better job to help us manage those populations," Gillham said. "We're basically the ranch managers of the DOW. It's the best job in the state."